Breath of Fresh Air
POSTED: Tuesday, September 7, 2010 - 5:45pm
UPDATED: Thursday, September 9, 2010 - 8:38am
The unique hyperbaric oxygen treatment is not only saving people from losing their limbs, but is also putting El Paso on the map.
Diabetes is one of the leading health problems here in El Paso. And those living with the disease are more susceptible to infections, that can sometimes even lead to amputation.
Las Palmas Medical Center is taking a team approach to diabetic care to avoid those drastic measures.
"You can tell, technology is coming around, and having it around the corner is great," said patient Andy Delgado. It was just a few weeks ago that he was in danger of amputation.
"I was, I was at first, because it looked real bad."
He has diabetes, and also an infection in his toe. Determined not to lose any part of his foot or leg, he came to Las Palmas Medical Center, where he began treatments in a hyperbaric chamber.
"When you're going down, they're pressuring the system, and your ears kind of pop, but it's just like being on an airplane," Delgado said.
The submarine-like chamber exposes patients to pure oxygen in order to saturate the bloodstream and heal damaged tissue. The average person only gets about 20% oxygen in the air we breath, but in a hyperbaric chamber, patients breath in 100% pure oxygen.
"We will do everything possible to prevent someone from losing a lower extremity," said podiatrist Caesar Zuniga. He says this isn't your run-of-the-mill technology, but it's helping hundreds of people in need.
"I've been in several locations throughout the United States, and this is one of the highest amount of people who have diabetes," Zuniga said.
That is why the majority of the patients come here. Last year they saw just under 189 patients in their hyperbaric center; so far this year, they've already seen 240.
This technology is relatively new and still has very few uses approved by the FDA. But Delgado says it's been worth the time and the ear popping.
"You can tell the difference, the way its healing," Delgado said. "I feel grateful and hopeful."
A limb salvage conference will be held this Friday at the Convention Center, where doctors from around the country will get a glimpse at the medical advancements here.